From Soil to City

Considering the Organic Food Dollar

Local Roots NYC Fall Vegetable Share

by Aly Miller and Wen-Jay Ying, Local Roots NYC

We all know that organic and naturally grown food is more expensive than eating conventionally grown foods, and we buy it for so many reasons; for our health; for the environment; for the way it tastes. Sometimes even the most committed supporters of our natural food system need a few more reasons to eat locally, which is why we asked our farmer, Zaid Kurdieh, to break it down for us.

“It goes beyond [seed and labor costs],” explained Zaid. “I pay my employees more of a living wage than most small organic farms – most of which employ unpaid interns. Organic seed can be anywhere from 20% more to three times as much as conventional seeds. Between my time and the employee’s time, it costs us around 50k a year to comply with organic regulations.”

He continued, “and yes, the certification fee is expensive, too. But even more costly is the work it takes us to comply to those standards, and the opportunity costs of having to do that work versus production work.”

20625131435_8987a76142_bFarmer George Brittenburg and one of Taproot Farm’s tomatoes, August 2015

In other words, Organic farmers like Zaid have to work really hard not only to farm but to meet the demanding standards of the USDA program. Another farmer with whom we work, George Brittenburg of Taproot Farm, chose to become Certified Naturally Grown to avoid the high costs and unrealistic paperwork requirements that USDA Organic certification requires. Despite certification costs and labor, Zaid sticks with his certification to reach the markets, restaurants, and customers who recognize Organic.

We love the work that Zaid does and how much he cares about his staff. In an industry where 89-90% of farm workers are here illegally – and are thus largely unprotected and paid minimally – paying living wages to farm workers is almost unheard of. He also goes above and beyond in terms of what he plants; not just peppers and potatoes, but also labor-intensive varieties like edamame and unique produce varieties. Every vegetable that comes from both Norwich Meadows farm and Taproot Farm is extremely nutrient-dense, often picked that day.

We choose to work with George and Zaid for their commitments to growing natural, nutrient-dense vegetables. We also appreciate how organized and reliable they are, which are traits that can be hard to find in this industry! Beyond that, they’re both innovative visionaries in organic agriculture who farm because it sustains them and their families, and the ecological communities of which they’re a part. We hope you’ll join us in supporting them for another season.
Norwich MeadowsAbove: Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, NY